Chinese Dragon Boat Festival


The Dragon Boat Festival is to commemorate the death of the famous Chinese poet Qu Yuan living in the latter part of the Warring States Period (476 - 221 BC). It was recognized as a traditional and statutory public holiday in China in 2008.

The Dragon Boat Festival was selected into the first batch of the National Intangible Cultural Heritage items on May 20th, 2006. On October 30th, 2009, it was added to the UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.

Fast Facts about Dragon Boat Festival

Chinese Name: 端午节
Alternative Names: Double Fifth Festival, Poets' Day
Date: May 5th (Chinese Lunar Calendar)
Festival Type: Traditional Chinese Festival
Countries/Areas to Celebrate: China, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, North Korea
Traditions and Customs: eating Zongzi (glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves and stuffed with different fillings), racing dragon boats, drinking realgar wine, wearing perfumed medicine bags, tie five color thread on wrist for kids, hanging mugwort and calamus
Significance: to commemorates the death of Qu Yuan (340–278 BC) - the poet and minister in Chu kindom
Charm Bracelet for the Festival Hand-made Five Color Thread Bracelet with Zongzi, Five Color Thread, Perfumed Medicine Bags

Date and Holiday Durations

The Dragon Boat Festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese lunar calendar. The Chinese people will have one day off to celebrate the festival. As it is usually combined with the neighboring weekend, people will have three days off for the holiday. The following chart shows the exact dates for the festival from 2024 to 2025 and holiday durations:
Year Date of Dragon Boat Holiday Durations
2024 June 10th June 8th - 10th
2025 May 31 May 31 - June 2
2026 June 19th June 19th - 21st

Origin and History

Originated in China, the Dragon Boat Festival was original the holiday to ease the diseases and prevent epidemic. Before the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC), in Wu and Yue States, it has the custom of sacrificing the tribal totem by dragon boat racing on the fifth day of the fifth month (Chinese lunar calendar). Later, because Qu Yuan died at that day, the day becomes a festival to commemorate Qu Yuan.

There are many kinds of legends about the origin of Dragon Boat Festival. Among all of them, the most popular one is about Qu Yuan.

Qu Yuan is a minister in the Chu kingdom - one of the seven warring states before Qin (221BC - 206BC). He offered many good suggestions to the king such as the alliance with the Qi Kindom to defend Qin. While his good advices were opposed greatly by other court officials, thus was exiled by the king after their slanderous talk about him. During his exile time, he composed many poems to express his concern about his country and people. In 278BC, after knowing his country was taken by Qin, he drowned himself in Miluo River.

After Qu Yuan died, the people of Chu tried to search him in the river. While searching, some fishermen threw cooked rice balls and eggs into the river thinking it would prevent fishes from eating Qu Yuan’s body. Later the rice balls were replaced by the present Zongzi (glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves). An old doctor poured a pot of realgar wine into the river in order to prevent the monsters in the river to hurt Qu Yuan’s body. So, every year on the day that Qu Yuan died (May 5th of the Chinese Lunar Calendar), people will commemorate him with the traditions of eating Zongzi, drinking the realgar wine and boat racing.

Traditions and Customs

There are many traditions for the Dragon Boat Festival and different areas have some different customs. Among them, the most popular ones are Eating Zongzi, drinking realgar wine, wearing sachet (perfumed medicine bags), tie hand-made “five color thread” bracelet, hanging mugwort and calamus, display portraits of evil's nemesis, Chung Kuei as well as dragon boat racing.

As the most popular food for the Dragon Boat Festival, Zongzi (glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves and stuffed with different fillings) is filled with different fillings for the people in the northern and southern China. In the north, it is mostly filled with the date, while in south with bean - paste, meat, egg yolk or ham. The Zongzi made in Jiaxing of Zhejiang is the most famous one in China. → Top Nine Traditional Delicacies for Dragon Boat Festival

During the festival, people usually hang mugwort and calamus around the doors of their homes, wear perfumed medicine bags, wear the “five color thread” on their neck, wrists or ankles, drink realgar wine, and display portraits of evil's nemesis, Chung Kuei as a way to prevent disease and evil. 
Dragon boat racing is now the most popular activity during the festival. It is a human-powered boat made of teak wood with the front shaped like an open-mouthed dragon and the end with the tail. Every year, during the festival, there are many dragon boat racings held in different areas of China to celebrate the festival.
Spring Festival scrolls
People enjoy the family reunion feast
Spring Festival evening party broadcast and guarding

More Traditional Chinese Festivals:

Chinese Spring Festival      Laba Festival      Lantern Festival      Dragon Heads-raising Day      Qingming Festival      Ghost Festival       The Double Ninth Festival         Mid-Autumn Festival      Double Seventh Festival      Winter Solstice

Chinese Calendar

31廿二/22 1廿三/23 2廿四/24 3廿五/25 4廿六/26 5廿七/27 6廿八/28
7廿九/29 8三十/30 三月 (Mar) 9初壹/1 10初二/2 11初三/3 12初四/4 13初五/5
14初六/6 15初七/7 16初八/8 17初九/9 18初十/10 19十壹/11 20十二/12
21十三/13 22十四/14 23十五/15 24十六/16 25十七/17 26十八/18 27十九/19
28二十/20 29廿壹/21 30廿二/22 1廿三/23 2廿四/24 3廿五/25 4廿六/26